Can you hear me now? Four lessons businesses can learn from Bible translation

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Communication is any business’ or organization’s most crucial task, regardless of the technology being used or with whom you are communicating. Central Florida is home to a broad spectrum of innovative and successful companies, but you might not know that it’s also home to an organization – Wycliffe Bible Translators USA – whose mission is one of the most ambitious communication goals in history.
From our headquarters in Orlando, we oversee more than 3,600 translators, linguists, aviators, humanitarian workers, educators and administrators working alongside partner organizations and local community leaders in nearly 100 countries around the world. Our goal is to make the Bible accessible to all people in the language and form that is most meaningful to them. In the process, it strengthens cultures by creating, in many cases, the first written form of a language, and providing educational and health information in local languages.

At first glance, it may seem like for-profit businesses have little in common with a nonprofit humanitarian organization, but in fact, there are many lessons we can learn from one another as neighbors.

Speak Your Audience’s Language
Wycliffe is built around making the Bible available to people in the language they know and understand best. Every day we see examples of how its words change people when they’re able to read or hear them in their “heart language” – the language they are most familiar with.

Eyes widen and minds open when the message is no longer lost in translation. We have found that when people hear and understand in their native tongue, they can talk about it and share it with neighbors.
Each of your different audiences — employees, board members, customers, the media, etc. — require translation skills as well. Make sure you’re communicating on their level, in their language, so you avoid the all too common phenomenon of being heard, but not being understood.

Passion Can Be More Valuable Than Training
Around 1,800 languages have yet to receive a Bible translation. Our vision is to begin a translation project for all of them by 2025, and the only way we’ll achieve this ambitious goal is to enlist people — both in the United States and in the countries where we work — who are passionate about it. We have found it’s easier to train a passionate person to facilitate effective translations than it is to train an effective translator to be passionate about the work.

Consider whether the same may be true for your company’s mission. If you avoid hiring people who buy into your vision, simply because they need some additional training, you may be missing out on team members who will contribute more than you ever expected.

Embrace Disruptive Technology
For many years, a single translation often took 20 years or more. But in 1999, a translator working with one of our partner organizations had an idea for a software program that would speed up the process by revolutionizing how translators work.

Adapt It, now in use in projects all over the world, allows a bilingual translator to take advantage of the work already done on one translation to produce a second translation in a related language. The software automates translation of similar words and phrases, allowing the translation team to carefully check already-translated works, rather than creating them by hand, cutting many years off the process.

Innovative technologies may be able to save you time and resources, even when they challenge established practices.

Challenge the Status Quo
Like new technologies, new approaches that challenge the status quo can be intimidating, but they can also free up resources and lead to success. For us, this has come in the introduction of “cluster” projects. Historically, individual languages were translated separately. But by grouping related languages — which often exist in close physical proximity to one another — into a single collaborative project, we can not only speed up the translation process but also build community among neighboring people groups.

Look for ways your long-held processes may be slowing down progress. Breaking down barriers between separate teams working toward similar goals can increase efficiency and build a sense of community and common purpose.

Though we have different backgrounds, different business models and different goals, corporate and nonprofit enterprises in the Central Florida region have a lot to learn from one another. We at Wycliffe know we can learn a lot from our neighbors in the business community.

Printed in i4Business

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About Bob Creson

President/CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Orlando, Florida. It is an injustice not to have the right to read the Scriptures.
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